Monday, October 31, 2005

Cameron calls for climate change consensus

Matthew Tempest and agencies
Monday October 31, 2005

Guardian Unlimited

Conservative leadership challenger David Cameron today called for a cross-party consensus on climate change to take the "Westminster party dogfight" out of the issue, as his campaign took a green tinge.

Visiting the Eden Project in Cornwall, the shadow education secretary said that, as prime minister, he would set up a national audit body to monitor year-on-year reductions in carbon gas emissions.

The putative "carbon audit office" would be independent of government, and Mr Cameron said he would seek support from Labour and the Liberal Democrats for the idea, as his campaign - well in the lead in all polls so far of Conservative party members - sought to rebut critics' claims that he would be a victory of style over substance.

Mr Cameron declared that if he were leader, climate change would be a "priority, not an afterthought" for the Conservative party. Tomorrow, the environment ministers of the G20 group of developing nations meet in London to discuss progress on the G8 Gleneagles summit agenda on climate change.

Mr Cameron met the centre's founder, Tim Smit, before touring the attraction's two biomes - the world's biggest greenhouses, which contain tropical rainforests and plants from around the world.

The 39-year-old shadow education secretary rejected criticism that his campaign represented "style over substance".

He said: "I've set out very clear plans in every important area. On the economy, how we should share the proceeds of growth between public spending and tax reduction.

"On the environment, I've set out today the steps we need to take to make this a cross-party issue where we can agree things for the long-term good of the country.

"I've been absolutely consistent as a modern compassionate Conservative saying the party needs to change, saying that we've lost three elections in a row and if we don't make changes we'll lose a fourth election."

Mr Cameron said his carbon audit office would act as watchdog for a new statutory framework with specific year-by-year requirements for carbon cuts.

It would perform a role in checking carbon emissions similar to that played by the Monetary Policy Committee in monitoring and forecasting inflation.

In Cornwall ahead of a trip to Manchester and the North-west tomorrow as part of his country-wide canvassing of party members, the shadow education secretary also stressed that his battle to become the next Conservative leader was not yet won.

Asked whether a series of polls showing him convincingly ahead of his rival David Davis meant the race was effectively already over, Mr Cameron said: "No, not at all. It's got another five weeks to run.

"I'm enjoying this. I think it's a worthwhile and good exercise, not just to listen to members of the Conservative party, but also to listen to members of the public about what they want from their politicians.

"One thing I think they particularly want is politicians who take the right decisions for the long-term interests of the country.

"That's why I'm talking about the environment today, and how we ought to try and take some of the issues about climate change out of the normal party dogfight in Westminster."

Meanwhile, Mr Cameron took his support in the parliamentary Tory party to the psychologically vital triple figures, with the announcement of 10 new backers who formerly supported Dr Liam Fox.

With only 198 Tory MPs in Westminster, that brings his support to more than half the parliamentary party.

In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, the MPs - including arch eurosceptic Bill Cash - write that Mr Cameron has "huge talent, intellectual ability and sound judgment".

The MPs are: Peter Bone, David Burrowes, Bill Cash, Stephen Crabb, Robert Goodwill, Stephen Hammond, Daniel Kawczynski, Brooks Newmark, Gary Streeter and Desmond Swayne.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Bush 'light years behind' on climate

Source: Copyright 2005, Press Association
Date:&nbspOctober 29, 2005

President Bush is "light years" behind the rest of the world on tackling climate change, a leading environmentalist has claimed.

Sir Jonathan Porritt, chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, condemned the president for refusing to sign up to the Kyoto protocol.

"I'm sorry to say that the Bush White House is now light years behind the rest of the world, and actually behind most of the rest of America now," he said.

Sir Jonathan said there had been a distinct change in large sections of the US business community and political system, with people now acknowledging more needed to be done to tackle climate change. But the president had not caught up.

He dismissed suggestions that moves to combat global warming would harm the economy.

He told BBC Radio Four's Today programme: "If we make the kind of investments that we could make now in energy efficiency and in cleaner, more sustainable technologies, it wouldn't just be good for the environment and our grandchildren, it would actually be very good indeed for the economy."

Sir Jonathan said Kyoto did not go far enough but it had set the right direction for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Hottest September on Record...

WASHINGTON — Worldwide, it was the warmest September on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Friday.

Averaging 1.13 degrees Fahrenheit (0.63 degree Celsius) above normal for the month, it was the warmest September since the beginning of reliable records in 1880, according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center.

The second warmest September was in 2003 with an average temperature of 1.02 degrees Fahrenheit (0.57 Celsius) above the mean.

For the United States it was the fourth warmest September on record.

The average U.S. temperature for the month was 2.6 degrees (1.4 C) above average.

Only the West Coast and parts of the Rockies were near normal. Louisiana had its warmest September in 111 years of national records and an additional 27 states ranked much above average.

Some cities also set new records for warmest average September temperatures including: Houston-Galveston, Texas; London, Ky.; Shreveport, La.; and Raleigh-Durham, N.C.

For the month, rain and snowfall across the country were below average, with unusually dry conditions for much of the East Coast and parts of the Plains and Northwest. Georgia, South Carolina and Maryland had their driest September on record.

Antarctic ice slipping faster into the sea

Climate change scientists have been proved wrong - but the sceptics won't be crowing.

Just four years ago the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that Antarctica would not contribute significantly to sea level rise in the 21st century. But glaciologists meeting at the Royal Society in London this week argued that the continent could already be the principal cause of rising sea levels.

The edges of the Antarctic ice sheets are crumbling at an unprecedented rate, says Andy Shepherd of the University of Cambridge. In one area, around the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica, the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers are dumping more than 110 cubic kilometres of ice each year. Warmer ocean waters circulating beneath the two glaciers are melting their bases and triggering an ever-faster slide into the ocean. The two glaciers are discharging ice three times as fast as a decade ago, and if they disappeared completely they could raise sea levels worldwide by more than a metre on their own.

Eric Rignot of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, reported that in many places the break-up of floating ice shelves at the continent's edge has triggered faster flows.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Amazon basin suffers worst drought in decades.

This article actually scares me. There are several types of climate models, relatively simple ones which we can alter to gain various usefull general pieces of information, but without all the complexities of the planet...and more complex general circulation models, which work from the 'base up' and are therfore more complete but costly to run and still error prone. The first GCMs to include the amazon rainforest all predicted its demise in the coming 50-100 years! This may not happen, because these models are far from perfect, but, this article may be descriving the first stages of this immense loss of our planets biodiversity. To clarify one point, it is rainforest but it is also a very hot area so water is not in as much of a state of surplus as you may expect. In certain areas the only reason treas can survive is that they have roots going down 12-14m so they can access deep reserves in the summer.

By Terry Wade

MANAQUIRI, Brazil (Reuters) - The worst drought in more than 40 years is damaging the world's biggest rainforest, plaguing the Amazon basin with wildfires, sickening river dwellers with tainted drinking water, and killing fish by the millions as streams dry up.

"What's awful for us is that all these fish have died and when the water returns there will be barely any more," Donisvaldo Mendonca da Silva, a 33-year-old fisherman, said.

Nearby, scores of piranhas shook in spasms in two inches of water -- what was left of the once flowing Parana de Manaquiri river, an Amazon tributary. Thousands of rotting fish lined the its dry banks.

The governor of Amazonas, a state the size of Alaska, has declared 16 municipalities in crisis as the two-month-long drought strands river dwellers who cannot find food or sell crops.

Some scientists blame higher ocean temperatures stemming from global warming, which have also been linked to a recent string of unusually deadly hurricanes in the United States and Central America.

Rising air in the north Atlantic, which fuels storms, may have caused air above the Amazon to descend and prevented cloud formations and rainfall, according to some scientists.

"If the warming of the north Atlantic is the smoking gun, it really shows how the world is changing," said Dan Nepstadt, an ecologist from the Massachusetts-based Woods Hole Research Institute, funded by the U.S. government and private grants.

"The Amazon is a canary in a coal mine for the earth. As we enter a warming trend we are in uncertain territory," he said.

Deforestation may also have contributed to the drought because cutting down trees cuts moisture in the air, increasing sunlight penetration onto land.

Other scientists say severe droughts were normal and occurred in cycles before global warming started.


In the main river port of Manaus, dozens of boats lay stranded in the cracked dirt of the riverbank after the water level receded. Pontoons of floating docks sit exposed on dry land. People drive cars where only months ago they swam.

An hour from where it joins the Rio Negro to form the Amazon River, the Rio Solimoes is so low that kilometers (miles) of exposed riverbank have turned into dunes as winds whip up thick sandstorms. Vultures feed on carrion.

Another major Amazon tributary, Rio Madeira, is so dry that cargo ships carrying diesel from Manaus cannot reach the capital of Rondonia state without scraping the bottom. Instead, fuel used to run power plants has to be hauled in by truck thousands of kilometers (miles) from southern Brazil.

Dry winds and low rainfall have left the rainforest more susceptible to fires that farmers routinely start to clear their pastures.

In normal dry seasons, rains arrive often enough to put out blazes that escape from farms and spread to the forest. This year, the forest is catching fire and staying aflame.

In Acre state, some 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) of forest have burned since the drought started and thick black smoke has on occasion shut down airports.

"It's illegal to burn but everyone around here does it. I do it to get rid of insects and cobras and to create fresh grass for my cows," a man who would only identify himself as Calixto said while using bundles of green leaves to smother flames and control fires near a highway.


The drought has also upset daily life in communities scattered throughout the basin's labyrinth of waterways.

"We closed 40 schools and canceled the school year because there's a lack of food, transport and potable water," said Gilberto Barbosa, secretary of public administration in Manaquiri. People whose wells have dried up risk drinking river water contaminated by sewage and dead animals.

Sinking water levels have severed connections in the lattice of creeks, lakes and rivers that make up the Amazons motorboat transportation network.

Many people in Manaquiri's 25 riverine communities are now forced to walk kilometers (miles) to buy rice or medicines.

Cases of diarrhea, one of the biggest killers in the developing world, are rising in the region. Many fear stagnant water will breed malaria. In response, the state government has flown five tons of basic medicines out to distant villages.

It will be two more months before the river fills again during the rainy season. Even then, residents fear polluted water will float to the top, causing sickness and economic plight.

"I've never seen anything like this," said Manuel Tavares Silva, 39, who farms melons and corn near Manaquiri, a town 149 km (93 miles) from Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state.

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